Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Boundaries Are Crossed

Undressed for bed.

Privacy Is Needed

 Ragtail heard enough of Rose’s declaration of innocence and waved away her excuses.
“You don’t need me anymore. Grind up those seeds, stir in water ‘til you make it like a runny oatmeal, and feed her.”

“OK,” Rose said, giving up on what must have been her favorite subject. “How much?”

“I don’t know. All of it, I reckon. I never heard of anyone using gourd seeds. It probably won’t work.”

Her stunned expression caused him to hurry the details along.
“An hour after she finishes the seeds, mix up the mud that Lark brung back into a thin slush. She should drink one good swallow or two little ones.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yep. Here, I’ll donate this.” Ragtail dug around in a pocket of Damn Donkey’s pack and pulled out a leather draw-string pouch. “Hold out your hand.”

“What is it?”

“Salt. A little flavor for the mud.” He placed a few coarse granules in her palm.
Then, swinging a finger a Rose and Lark, he invited them to leave. He and Damn Donkey wanted to bed down.

A matter of social pride for Ragtail was that he never slept with his boots on. Only the lowest desert-rats did that. Their argument went that you had to shake ‘em out in the morning for scorpions, so why bother taking them off?

It was true. Ragtail had to beat his boots together upside down, and often one or two of the ugly creatures fell out.

For Ragtail, removing his boots was the civilized thing to do. It honored mankind by telling the desert that all day he had to survive by its rules, but tonight he would show a little human dignity.

However, his human dignity went slam up against his personal modesty. How could he undress like that in the middle of all these wimmin? Civilization won.
#  #  #

The quarter moon’s position told Ragtail that he had only slept two hours before Damn Donkey’s restlessness woke him. He raised his head to listen. Sure enough, Lark was singing. If one of those high notes set his partner to braying, he’d get his shotgun and put some sting in Lark’s britches.

The sound of running feet heralded the arrival of a breathless Rose. “Come on. Something’s happening. It’s moving.”

Ragtail held up a blocking hand. “Please, I’m not fully dressed.”


Rose walked to Ragtail’s bedroll and inspected him to the point where he felt heat on his face.

“Don’t you want to be there to see if your cure works?”

“That’s one place I don’t want to be.”

“What do we do?”

“If you see it coming out, grab it and pull.”

Rose spotted them. “Your boots? Yeah, you’d be one of those. Okay, I’ll take your instructions back. Kettie’s so worried that she’d grab the devil. Anything I can do for you first, Sweetie?"

It was too much. Being caught undressed by a woman that refused to acknowledge his boundaries, and moreover called him by a name favored by dancehall girls sent his embarrassment over the pointed moon. Someone had to pay.

“Uh … I guess. Can you find a rock that’s comfortable in your hand?”

“Sure, one’s right here.”

“Fling it at the singer.”



“How hard?”


Ragtail heard a satisfying thud and yell from Lark.

Rose took off running.

Will Ragtail get to sleep? Leave a comment.

To read the series, click on September in the Archive list to the right and start with Tales Old Roy Told.

Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays.

Thank a veteran.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Rose Spills The Beans

And Borrowed A Horse

Ragtail Needs Solitude

Lark and Cecilia returned, laughing and swapping stories like old friends.

She presented the sack of gourds to Ragtail. “What do you want to do with these?”

“Get the seeds out and ground up. Save the hulls for Damn Donkey.”

“Mister, we ain’t got a grinder.”

“Got two rocks?”

Cecilia’s blank face confirmed her standing as an indoor woman. She may know how to use a scrub board, but she wouldn’t know how to make tortillas outside.

Rose snorted, Lark wiggled into his shamefaced shuffle like he did just before Ragtail started throwing things.

There were too many people, too much talking, and a limit to his patience. Ragtail glared at Rose. “Explain it to her.” He went to join his one reliable trail companion.

When Rose caught up with him, Ragtail had his arm around Damn Donkey’s neck, scratching his ears. “Kettie says I ought to stay with you,” she said.

Ragtail bowed up like a barn cat at a rattlesnake. “Ain’t nobody can keep me from going when I want.”

“I don’t think it’s like that, mister. She don’t want to lose you before she knows how to fix Cornelius.” Rose spread her hands. “You’re the only one that knows.”

Ragtail was studying her face for the truth in it when Lark arrived with gourd shells.
“All right,” Ragtail told her, “let’s see how accommodating you wimmen are.”

Rose took two full steps backward. “What do you mean?”

How About The Truth

Ragtail reached for the husks. “Tell me why all of you were prisoners that fetched up here.”

“Prisoners?” Lark echoed. “What's that about?”

“Shaddup and let her tell it,” Ragtail said.

“Sure,” Rose said. “Ain’t no harm in it, I suppose.” She shrugged. “We was in a jail wagon headed for the territorial prison when Charlie, our driver, got to feeling poorly. Wasn’t no one riding shotgun. They said puny women in a lock-up didn’t deserve another law dog.” Rose gave a soft chuckle. “The thing with lawmen is that half of ‘em take a badge so the other half quits looking for them.” She looked at Ragtail. “Ain’t it so?”

“Go on, get to it,” he said.

“Well, Charlie’s in his twilight years, and he’s getting worsened, so he makes us a deal. He’s built a place in a hidden valley, and if we take care of him until his great getting’ up mornin’, he’ll drive us there and free us. ‘Course we agreed. That’s it.”

“I didn’t see no grave,” Lark said.

“It’s yonder, on t’other side of the oaks.”

“No jail wagon,” Ragtail said, looking around. “Wasn’t one in the barn.”

“Kettie said to tear it apart so if anyone came by they wouldn’t start asking about it.”

“So all five of you are convicts?” Lark had turned his shoulder to Rose. He looked like he’d run.

She laughed. “Sure ‘nuff. Almost six, but the judge didn’t sentence Yalla. He just followed along.”

“What’s the crimes?” Ragtail had his jaw set. He didn’t cotton to convicts making light of their status.

“Well,” Rose said, extending a finger and tapping it with another as she named her companions. “Anna, as I told you, is plumb crazy. There’s nowhere for her around decent folks.
Cecilia, who you seem to be smitten with,” she leered at Lark, “was a housekeeper and governess. Trouble was, the fancy people’s riches kept finding a way into her pocket.”
She counted on another finger. “Kettie, for the blunt of it, was a card shark and swindler.”
Another finger, “and Cornelius murdered her husband—”

“Whoa, wait!” Ragtail held up a hand. “That sickly woman is a killer?”

“That’s what they got her for,” Rose said. “Funny, though. She always acted like the tamest one of us all.”

Ragtail pointed at Rose. “How about you?”

“I never done nothing wrong.” Rose wore a deep scowl. “True love don’t often come about for a woman who earns her way in a dancehall. I only borrowed that horse to get to my handsome cowboy. I would have returned it as soon as I collected up with my man but they never gave me a chance. Said I stole it and jailed me. I’m what they call a victim of circumsticks.”

Who's innocent? Leave a comment and check a box below.

To read the series, click on September in the Archive list to the right and start with Tales Old Roy Told.

Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays.

Thank a veteran.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Say Please

A Couple of the Escaped Inmates

If It's Not A Farm, What Is It?

Kettie swung her gaze from Cornelius to Ragtail. “Oh, you saw our pumpkin patch, did you?”

“No, I didn’t.” Ragtail tightened his mouth. This female woman was a pain worse than a cactus sticker. “I was too busy walking in front of that there shotgun.”

“You didn’t see it because we ain’t got one, idjit. Does this look like a right prosperous farm?”

Ragtail headed for the door. She could shoot or let him go. He didn’t care.

Cecilia put her hand on his arm, not griping, just touching. “Please, mister. You’re the first sign of help Cornelius has had. Don’t go. Please?”

He stopped and looked her over. Thin and careworn, she showed a sense of dignity in herself and concern for Cornelius.

Did he deserve to be waylaid like this? No. He should be with Damn Donkey prospecting for El Dorado.
It was Lark’s fault. Ever since connecting with the screeching prospector Ragtail’s whole world was different.

Cecilia licked her lips. “We don’t have pumpkins, but there’s a bunch of buffalo gourds growing wild down in the wet—what we call the bottomland. The ground is dampish, tall grass grows, I bet your burro would love it. ... I’m sorry, I’m rambling. Would the gourds work? They’re mostly hollow. Will you help? Please?”

The Magic Word

He would regret it, he knew he would because he already did. But still. …. He glared at Kettie. “You should learn the word 'please' and use it like your sister here.”

Cecilia’s plea seemed to affect Kettie. She wiped a hand across her face. “We ain’t sisters but we’re as close as, so I’d take it kindly if you’d do what you can.”

“Well,” Ragtail said, “I don’t know about them gourds, but if that’s all you got we’ll try ‘em.”

Kettie nodded at Ragtail and Cecilia. “Go get ‘em.”

Ragtail didn’t budge.

“Please?” Kettie added.

Outside The Cabin

She followed Ragtail and Cecilia into the yard. “What happened here?”

Ragtail saw his packs in the dirt and hollered until he saw Damn Donkey grazing on acorns.

 “Crazy Anna was going to use the burro to plow up a garden,” Rose said.

Kettie stamped her foot. “I told you not to call her that.”

“What else would you call someone that was shipped off for living with goats and talking strange in Spanish?”

“What’s wrong with raising goats?” Lark asked Rose.

“She wasn’t raising them. She was living among them. She got declared crazy. It wasn’t me what said it first.”

“It don’t matter,” Kettie said. “Go get the gourds for Cornelius.”

“You go,” Ragtail said, pointing at Lark. “You let her do this when I trusted you to watch my stuff. Now I have to put it back in order.”

It wasn’t exactly true. Ragtail never entrusted anyone with his gear, but he was tired of being told what to do. He was by golly overdue to give someone else orders.
“And if you find some real fine mud, no gravel in it, bring back a handful,” he told Cecilia.

Ragtail picked up his packs and placed them on the porch boards, giving Rose sidelong glances as she, in turn, watched Lark and Cecilia heading across the pasture.

Lark was swinging a sack as he gestured to accent his story. Or, he may have been singing already.

Ragtail cleared his throat. “What was it you said about the crazy one being sent away?”

“Oh,” Rose gave him a wide grin, “we were all sent away.”


“Yep. All five of us were prisoners on the way to the territorial prison. This place suited us better.”

What will happen to Ragtail and Lark among five women escapees? Leave a comment and check a box below.

To read the series, click on September in the Archive list to the right and start with Tales Old Roy Told.

Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays.

Thank a veteran.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Home Remedies

Prisoner's Valley

There's A Cure For That

Anna lifted the satchels from Damn Donkey’s pack saddle, unhitched the frame and dropped it on the pile that Yalla was sniffing.

“Ragtail’s not gonna like that,” Lark said. “He’s a real private person.”

The happy woman quit grinning. “Can you speak Spanish, mister?”

“My name’s Reathway Williams, madam. I surely didn’t catch yours, but I’m happy to make all of your acquaintances. Of course, I can speak the language of the Conquistadors. How will that help you?”

“Maybe with Anna there, Reamed-Away. She’s as American as any of us but rattles off in Spanish whenever she’s upset—which is all the time. Nobody knows how she learned it or even if she’s saying anything right, but it may calm her down to hear it.”

“Um, that’s ‘Reathway’ but Ragtail calls me ‘Lark’ if that would help you.”

The woman waved his words away and raised her voice, “What are you doing, Anna? Did Kettie tell you to do this?”

“Don’t nobody got to tell me nothing, Rose. This here sorry critter is the next thing to a plow mule we’re gonna git. Soon’s I git him into a harness, he’s gonna turn up sod for the garden. You just watch this hombre.” She pointed her chin at Lark. “You’re good at that.”

Rose turned to Lark and in a hurried whisper urged him, “Say something to her.”

Lark cleared his throat, hitched up his pants and strode to Anna in an upright, square-shouldered posture of authority. “Ortega! We’re having a quatro day. It is very Aguilar.” He smiled and nodded in agreement with his apparent success when Anna stopped.

¡Dios Mio! Está loco,” she said and led the bare-backed animal away.

Anna tied Damn Donkey near the gate to an overgrown pasture and fetched a harness from the barn.

Lark was still taking it all in, it happened so fast. Damn Donkey bit Anna and kicked Yalla. Then having scattered his tormentors, the shaggy little animal ambled to the shade of an oak.

Rose closed her gaping mouth and said, “I’ve never seen Anna back down from nothing.”

“Ragtail’s burro just claimed the yard,” Lark agreed.

#  #  #

Ragtail looked at the gaunt face on a gunny sack pillow. “Ought to have his hair scissored down. He looks like a woman.”

Kettie jabbed him with the gun, “Cornelius is a woman, and before you ask, No.She ain’t gonna have a baby.”

Ragtail rubbed his ribs, “Go easy with that proddin’, will you? I’m gitting sore and a little out of sorts. If’n you want help, you’d best be polite in the askin’.”

“All right,” Kettie said, “here it is. It seems Cornelius was always on the frail side, but then she took to losing her bowels and throwing up. I can’t figure out how such a small woman that can’t keep food down can still grow a nice round belly without it being bad enough to have killed her already.”

Ragtail studied the patient’s outline under the dirty bedcover. Her emaciated form was indeed bulging in the middle like a birthing mother would expect. Her sunken eyes circled with worry or pain lines—he couldn’t tell which—were nonetheless bright and fixed on him. Her gaze made him uncomfortable with a sensation he couldn’t name.

Ragtail mentally pinched himself, a trick he’d learned in the desert to bring his attention back from drifting.
“I reckon it’s a tapeworm,” he told Kettie. Fetch a medium-sized pumpkin. You’ll need seventy to seventy-five seeds.”

How will Ragtail cure Cornelius? Leave a comment and click a box below.

To read the series, click on September in the Archive list to the right and start with Tales Old Roy Told.

Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays

Thank a veteran.